‘Charminar Promenades’ refers to the trials and triumphs of the project and the value of its achievements. The author highlights the lack of an understanding of heritage as a cultural resource, which has made the walled city particularly vulnerable, given the lack of information and comprehensive heritage management policies. In this light, the paper calls for an integration of theoretical approaches and archival information with ground reality for the protection of local environments. She makes a case for cultural resource mapping of built heritage for framing pragmatic, comprehensive actions aligned to long term goals. She further states that strengthening grass-roots cultural links to neglected and threatened heritage through the generation of local knowledge-building initiatives is an important means towards protecting them.

Land and water as ‘resources’ are well understood and appreciated, more so because society has begun to suffer from their scarcity. However, heritage as a resource is less understood. Built heritage such as the walled city of Hyderabad, with the Charminar in its centre, is a type of cultural resource that embodies architectural, design and technical knowledge systems. Many a times, this resource is highly threatened. Even when acknowledged as a resource, it is very often objectified as a commodity. However, the resource approach towards heritage recognizes the nobler or less-developed side of the coin of heritage – the subject side. The heritage-as-resource philosophy and approach calls for the expansion of this side. Only then, will it be possible to take actions of protection and management because the knowledge required for taking quality decisions depends on the information level within society i.e. the subject side of the heritage coin. The balance required for sustainability is that the subject side has to be greater than the object side. Management of heritage as resource accepts and follows these principles. Heritage or cultural resource is irreplaceable and hence a public asset to be shared by society at large and under the jurisdiction of national protection. 

A cultural resource’s true properties and characteristics are even less understood as it is a very complex, entangled, inter and trans disciplinary area. Being a product of various historic periods in a particular geographic context, it has time and space dimensions to it. In order to rationally understand the cultural resource of built heritage, one needs to objectively define and describe its physical and formal characteristics such as shape, size, form and definable entities; along with intangible values, especially as cultural resource to local communities. The broad scope of cultural resource has the potential for participatory management since local cultural assets can be best looked after by the local communities. It ensures a continuing relationship of the past to the present society. Real grass-roots level development is only possible when development measures relate to the skills, abilities and knowledge of the local population. A resource oriented approach towards heritage needs to be explored to take actions of protection and management.

Project Charminar

‘Charminar Promenades’ represent the experience of the author of a multi-level involvement with the old city of Hyderabad − a potential World Heritage City, which is desperately in need of care and management. The inquiry into the rediscovery of the walled city of Hyderabad, by extracting the cultural information that could be read from the surviving built heritage, began in 1999 as a studio project in the Department of Architectural Conservation, School of Planning and Architecture, New Delhi.

The original brief of the project initiated by the Tourism Department, Government of Andhra Pradesh was to pedestrianize the congested Charminar area in the walled city. The main consultant was the well known Vastushilpa Foundation of Ahmedabad with a heritage team support. ‘Project Charminar, Hyderabad – Restructuring the Historic Core’ continued through 2000 in collaboration with Vastushilpa Consultants in which the author was responsible for developing and interpreting the cultural significance of the heritage components of the walled city. The absence of a legislative framework prevented the heritage team’s work from yielding any direct protection and management measure, and the end result − ‘Hyderabad Heritage Walks’ came about as a by-product of the heritage effort process. This paper aims at bringing to light the underlying and the interrelated dynamics of the project which could help to achieve long term solutions.

Hyderabad is the capital and the district headquarters of the State of Andhra Pradesh, located in South India. Charminar stands as the symbol and landmark of Hyderabad – from the present to the past. Founded in 1591 by Muhammad QuliQutb Shah, Hyderabad was the capital of the Nizam’s Dominion, the largest princely state in the Indian subcontinent. Today, it is difficult to discern the original Hyderabad with its traffic congestion and unauthorized construction. The fortified wall of the historic city has almost completely disappeared except for in some parts. The city has transformed through time and is still changing rapidly. The method used to understand the dynamics of change was an area inventory for an objective assessment of the walled city as a historic entity. This becomes important in the absence of any procedure to guide the change and also helps to arrive rationally at specific proposals required for salvaging and recovering the cultural values of the historic city. The study was limited to the physical aspect that is the built form of the city.

It was important to stress that managing the Charminar area as a heritage resource should be the first priority and not treating it just as a commodity for tourist consumption or a secondary facet of a traffic plan. The city administrators should not diminish the cultural value of a heritage zone such as the walled city of Hyderabad as it is the ‘goose’ that lays the ‘golden egg’ which tourism can benefit from. Within an integrated approach to management of city heritage, the cultural resource information stored in the built heritage of a place such as the walled city is a value addition to our contemporary life. Knowledge of cultural resource information helps us take decisions in a more coherent manner. Discussions and meetings with the State Government officials resulted in persuading the State to broaden their focus to include social, heritage and economic development. Utilising the collected knowledge to create a product catering to the tourists through heritage walks can be called a by-product of the project, as there had been no other substantial outcome.

Interpreting the Heritage of the walled city

Our aim was to rediscover the walled city, for which we used inventories and analysed the historical 1914 map of the walled city, exploring open spaces, streets, ‘bazaars’, or markets, mosques, ‘deoris’ or mansions, large traditional houses and vernacular houses. Through the process, we discovered the following:

  • The excellent site selection and the history behind it
  • The explanation of the ‘paradise’ plan
  • A rediscovery of the capital city of the last Nizam. The study and conclusions were entirely based on the surviving cultural contents existing at site today rather than secondary sources. The survey of the walled city revealed the enormous contribution of the last Nizam not only to the walled city but also to the city of Hyderabad as a whole.
  • The traditional cultural diversity of the walled city both in the case of built form and the people.
  • The plots of the city also told us a story. This is a very important aspect since in many historic cities the size of the plot determines the physical character of the city itself, lending it uniqueness. Plot sizes in the walled city of Hyderabad are a reflection of its social and cultural system. The plot of the Khilwat complex, the palace of the king, was the largest but with new colonies being set up in the open spaces, it is almost impossible to discern the actual space today. Therefore, retention of the plot size becomes important and has to be integrated with the controls and guidelines for the development of the place.

Short-term actions and long term needs

As an immediate measure, four small pilot projects were taken up to be seen as examples to inspire and enhance the cultural integrity of the walled city once actions were taken up. The Tourism Department was to fund these.

  • Heritage Walks: The entire walled city still retains a uniform distribution of the historic fabric such as the Nizam’s palace complex, ‘deoris’ of the nobles, housing of the rich and poor, the vernacular pockets, ‘bazaars’, ‘chowks’ or street intersections, streetscapes, workshops and the institutional buildings of the 19th and 20th century apart from the few QutbShahi buildings. The heritage walks are a way to disseminate this information both to the people of the city and the visitor. Eight walks, based on different themes of the walled city, were designed and published. These walks commenced from 27th September 2000.
  • Conservation of Charkaman: Charkamans are the four archways of the royal square of the Qutb Shahi times. They marked the threshold to the Royal Qutb Shahi Palace complex and the other areas of the Qutb Shahi city. They are a very important part of the avenue that leads to the Charminar. The aim of the project was to work towards prolonging the life of the building using acceptable standards of documentation and a scientific approach.
  • Restoration of the Pattargatti Stretch: Pattargatti was a bold intervention by the last Nizam to add character to the main street front leading to Charminar. Even today this stretch retains its importance being the main approach to Charminar. The project proposed the pedestrianization of the entire stretch, which would lend a new urban character to the area, revitalizing the Pattargatti and enhancing its cultural value. In collaboration with the shopkeepers for the maintenance and up gradation of the stretch, the proposal was to organize the pavement shops liberating the pedestrian colonnade, order the parking and systematize the signage.
  • The Lad Bazaar: Lad Bazaar is the historic market that housed the jewellery and bangle market of both the QutbShahi and NizamShahi times. Even today, it retains its use as the bangle market and manufacturing area for bangles for almost the entire country. Though it has lost its entire original fabric; due to the traditional use still continuing, it is one of the most interesting places in the walled city. For the same reason, the bay sizes of the shops have been maintained though some changes are becoming visible now. Therefore, redesign is urgently required so that new uses do not completely take over the traditional ones.

Other projects

  • Proposal for adaptive reuse of police station as an interpretation centre: This is required to strengthen the project’s objective of dissemination of cultural resource information. It also supports the proposal to pedestrianize the area of Charminar.
  • Proposal for revitalization of the Mahboob Chowk: The old Nizami weekly bazaar of splendid architecture is today being used as a meat market, which is a completely inappropriate use, calling for urgent revitalization of the Chowk area.
  • Proposal for Night Bazaar at Mir AlamMandi: Once a parade ground, it has been a thriving bazaar since the 19th century. Its present use as a vegetable market is completely inappropriate.

To achieve the long-term vision for the Walled City was technically possible but the obstacle was the lacuna of responsible agencies with jurisdictions and set procedures in which different interest groups could contribute. One can see that Hyderabad, without doubt, needs a comprehensive cultural resource management plan but that was beyond the scope of the project, which was limited to piecemeal and already identified projects. It was envisaged such that in every urban planning and design intervention, the needs of the historic resource in question were considered.

Achievements of our exercise

The first step was to prove that the walled city of Hyderabad is more than just a few isolated monuments. It involved a redefinition and rediscovery of the walled city. The second step was to integrate this rediscovered heritage in the urban planning and urban design projects of the city. In the light of this definition of ‘heritage as a cultural resource’, the walled city of Hyderabad emerges more substantive than generally perceived. The complex agglomeration of the traditional built elements such as ‘deoris’, ‘manzils’, mosques, ‘kaman’, tanks, gardens, temples, wells etc. define the cultural entity of the walled city. These exist as a complex spatial pattern with multiple relationships which need to be brought within a management framework. Heritage is a crucial part of resource planning, adding to the content and substance of the area of the project, and is a prerequisite for urban management decisions and the study underlined the immense value of the walled city of Hyderabad. It requires a conservation approach and method based on the UNESCO guidelines.


All the aspects mentioned in the paper can play a positive and vital role in the tourism sector, but only after the management strategies have worked upon the city fabric to enhance the visitors’ experience. Heritage is an irreplaceable resource and has to be looked after for its own sake and not for that of tourism only; protection of heritage will automatically give a boost to tourism. This invokes a system of integrated heritage management, in which tourism plays its part and the education and heritage management needs remain crucial for long-term benefits. This approach synthesizes the requirement of two sequential actions – cultural resource management plans and a heritage zone plan to integrate cultural resource management with the planning decisions. Also complex, heterogeneous, and layered built heritage, constituting our historic towns and cities is still outside the scope of any kind of management due to limited policy and procedures for maintenance and conservation. The ‘sense’ of a city – that it is historical, dynamic and alive – has to be translated into cultural resource information in order to reinstate it as one of the greatest cities of the world – Hyderabad – the city of Charminar.

‘Charminar Promenades’, as the heritage walks were called, were designed for the rediscovery of the walled city, to disseminate the cultural resource information generated by the study to the people of the walled city as well as the visitors. The product is already out in the form of brochures, technical drawings and text. The walks were flagged off on 27th September 2000 with an impressive number of participants including the local MLAs (Member of Legislative Assembly) and bureaucrats. However, the walks remain a product for tourist consumption. They are separate from the real needs of management of the walled city of Hyderabad and remain a small achievement for both the walled city and the conservation professional. The complete picture is much larger, complex and involves policy decisions, procedures and management strategies to be established. The definition & identification of what has to be ‘managed’ is the first & crucial step of the management process and the heritage team was able to do that very well. The process enriched us and all the people we interacted with and through that we were able to challenge perceptions and change mindsets. ‘Charminar Promenades’ demonstrate a paradigm shift towards holistic understanding but there is still a long way to go.